I’ll tell you how I knew I’d enjoy the final episode: Russell T. Davies was back as one of the writers. I will also say that to enjoy Torchwood season 4, you do have to bypass the logic center of the brain. I’m guessing Russell saw where the story had gone and said something like, “um there’s a lot of missing logic here, both factual and Doctor Who lore-wise. I need to make a few tweaks!” So Jilly asks about why there’s no volcanic activity and Captain Jack tries to rationalize how the Blessing might tie in with the Racnoss and the Silurians… but in the end, it’s all waved away with an “I don’t know!” Satisfying that the writing acknowledged these oversights? Yes. Satisfying that they were there to begin with? No! I agree story telling has to be job one and logic comes second, but take a look at the writing of Netflix’s Lost in Space and you can almost imagine the writers saying: “this is going to happen. Science out a solution!” and the writers work that in. Good storytelling dovetails with science nicely in a situation like that. We don’t quite see that here, do we?
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s a lot going on in this episode. If this series went on, we had some great characters introduced. Rex is an easy stand in for Jack Harkness and really fills those shoes later. Esther really came into her own and I could have easily seen her replacing Gwen. Shapiro… I mean, it’s John De Lancie! He was entertaining when I was a child and my mom had a soap opera on that he appeared in. I didn’t even watch the show but when he became Q in Star Trek The Next Generation in 1987, I remember thinking: “that’s the guy from my mom’s soap!” He’s too good for another season of this logic-deprived series though and he has to be killed off… depressingly! Jilly is a little annoying and I’m glad Gwen asked about how much lipstick she wears. Still she’s an entertaining semi-villain. The one character that I could not stand was Bill Pullman’s Oswald Danes, who I always assumed would die anyway. In the end, Danes doesn’t redeem himself but he serves a purpose and I realized why he couldn’t be a standard hacker; he had to be a pedophile monster because he had to be comfortable with sin. The Blessing shows him his true self and he accepts it. It’s his horrible act of deciding that a child would live or die convinces Gwen that no person should have that power. And it’s because of that, that Gwen is able to convince Rex to go ahead with the plan before she herself shoots Jack. (As a poi0nt, Gwen goes through a similar situation with the Blessing, learning that she has a lifetime of guilt… and brushes it off that she’s a working mother, so she already knew that. Like I said, disable the logic portion of the brain!)
Speaking of turning off the logic center, I’m frustrated with the portrayal of heroes in this series. It’s got to be the UK/US collaboration that breaks this understanding because the heroes I look up to are actually heroic! Gwen points a gun at Oswald and reminds him that if they succeed, murder is coming back. Don’t get me wrong: I want Oswald dead but frankly, that’s not the job of the heroes. Later, Jack gives Oswald hope about the future with some really lovely background music playing, but then ends by whispering in Oswald’s ear: “Then you’d know how small you’ve made your life!” Again, I agree with Jack; pedophiles are monsters but it’s not the place of the hero to rub the bad guys nose in it! (Although as Oswald is about to blow himself up, he starts yelling to the dead Susie Cabina, the girl he killed, to start running again because he’s after her even in death… and I sort of give Gwen and Jack a pass for what they said to him after all!) That all said, the biggest “hero” of this story is the unnamed Asian woman who sees Gwen sitting on the ground, heartbroken, and bring her a cup of tea!
“Guess what? Death came back!” The end is surprisingly satisfying, no matter how much logic was hurled into that chasm that was the Blessing. While I don’t like seeing our heroes take matters into their own hands, the guy who shot Esther did warrant being hurled into the abyss. (And make no mistake, on the episode where I thought Esther would make a good replacement for Gwen, she is killed off! By contrast, Jilly seems to be caught in an explosion yet appears unharmed later and ready to lay the groundwork for a potential season 5.) Gwen get closure for her father and Charlotte is finally found it, just in time to shoot and kill Rex.
Let me reiterate once last time: in the battle of logic vs good storytelling… bye bye logic. Yes, it was a great idea to transfuse Rex with Jack’s blood so we could have that big reveal but blood isn’t what gave Jack the ability to spring back from the dead. When Rex pops back up, giving us a classic Doctor Who “what, what, what” ending, you bet I applauded… but I was a bit let down that Rose’s gift to Jack was transferred by this crack in the earth. Jack’s ability was from the time vortex itself and not an earth based thing! What? What?? WHAT?!?!
In the end, good storytelling won the round but the casualty may have been future seasons. I think a series like this has to have an internal logic that makes sense and works with good storytelling; it should not have to exist independently of it. It was a fun finale for Torchwood, and I will miss the cast, but there is no comparison to what existed just one season earlier. Guess the minds behind Doctor Who needed a new idea to keep the spinoffs coming. ML